2014 Bentiu massacre

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2014 Bentiu massacre
Part of South Sudanese Civil War
Location Bentiu, South Sudan
Coordinates 9°14′06″N29°48′21″E / 9.2350°N 29.8058°E / 9.2350; 29.8058 Coordinates: 9°14′06″N29°48′21″E / 9.2350°N 29.8058°E / 9.2350; 29.8058
Date15 April 2014 (2014-04-15)
Deaths400+ [1]
Victims Sudanese people (Darfuri traders, suspected JEM fighters), Dinka people (local civilians, SPLA soldiers) [2]
Perpetrators SPLM/A-IO (denied) [3]

The 2014 Bentiu massacre occurred on 15 April 2014 in the town of Bentiu, in the north of South Sudan, during the South Sudanese Civil War. The attack has been described by The Economist as the "worst massacre" of the ongoing civil war. [4]

Bentiu Place in Northern Liech, South Sudan

Bentiu, also spelled Bantiu, is a town in South Sudan and capital of the state of Northern Liech.

South Sudan country in Africa

South Sudan, officially known as the Republic of South Sudan, is a landlocked country in East-Central Africa. The country gained its independence from the Republic of the Sudan in 2011, making it the newest country with widespread recognition. Its capital and largest city is Juba.

South Sudanese Civil War conflict in South Sudan between government and opposition forces; began on 14 December 2013

The South Sudanese Civil War is an ongoing conflict in South Sudan between forces of the government and opposition forces. In December 2013, President Kiir accused his former deputy Riek Machar and ten others of attempting a coup d'état. Machar denied trying to start a coup and fled to lead the SPLM – in opposition (SPLM-IO). Fighting broke out between the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) and SPLM-IO, igniting the civil war. Ugandan troops were deployed to fight alongside the South Sudanese government. The United Nations has peacekeepers in the country as part of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). In January 2014 the first ceasefire agreement was reached. Fighting continued and would be followed by several more ceasefire agreements. Negotiations were mediated by "IGAD +". A peace agreement known as the "Compromise Peace Agreement" was signed in August 2015. Machar returned to Juba in 2016 and was appointed vice president. Following a second breakout of fighting within Juba, the SPLM-IO fled to the surrounding and previously peaceful Equatoria region. Machar was replaced by Kiir as First Vice President by Taban Deng Gai, splitting the opposition, and rebel in-fighting has become of major part of the conflict. Rivalry among Dinka factions led by the President and Malong Awan have also led to fighting. In August 2018, another power sharing agreement came into effect.



Prior to the attack, people had sought refuge in places of worship and healing, [5] while a local radio station featured rebel commanders warning certain ethnic groups, except the Nuers, that they were coming for them, calling on the other groups to rape the non-Nuer women. [6]

Nuer people ethnic group

The Nuer people are a Nilotic ethnic group primarily inhabiting the Nile Valley. They are concentrated in South Sudan, with some also found in southwestern Ethiopia. They speak the Nuer language, which belongs to the Nilo-Saharan family. As one of the largest ethnic groups in southern Sudan, the Nuer people are pastoralist who herd cattle for a living. The cattle of the Nuer people serve as companions and a lifestyle. However, they refer to themselves as "Nath". The Nuer people have historically been under-counted as a result of the semi-nomadic lifestyle in which the community engages, as well as a lack of proper national census information about the community. In addition, the Nuer also have a culture of counting only older members of the family. For example, the Nuer believes that counting the number of children one has could result in misfortune and the community prefer to report fewer number of children when in fact they have many children.


UN human rights investigators said that after rebels wrested Bentiu from government forces in heavy battles, the gunmen spent two days hunting down those who they believed opposed them. [7] The killers, identified by the United Nations as forces of the Nuer-led SPLM/A-IO, went from place to place, from mosque to church to hospital, separating people by ethnicity and religion and shooting the ones left behind. [8] Civilians were killed in the town's main hospital, in a Catholic church and especially in the Kali-Ballee mosque, [9] where hundreds had taken shelter and where the rebels "separated individuals of certain nationalities and ethnic groups and escorted them to safety, while the others were killed," according to a UN report. [10] One of those who only barely escaped death during the massacre was the prominent former warlord and pro-government commander Peter Par Jiek. [11]

Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement-in-Opposition

The Sudan People's Liberation Movement-in-Opposition, also known as the anti-governmental forces (AGF), is a mainly South Sudanese political party and rebel group that split from the Sudan People's Liberation Movement in 2013, due to political tensions between President Salva Kiir and Vice President Riek Machar over leadership of the SPLM. Tensions grew between forces loyal to Kiir and Machar and South Sudan plunged into the South Sudanese Civil War.

Warlord person who has both military and civil control and power

A warlord is a leader able to exercise military, economic, and political control over a subnational territory within a sovereign state due to their ability to mobilize loyal armed forces. These armed forces, usually considered militias, are loyal to the warlord rather than to the state regime. Warlords have existed throughout much of history, albeit in a variety of different capacities within the political, economic, and social structure of states or ungoverned territories.

Peter Par Jiek was a brigadier general of the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), and veteran of the Second Sudanese Civil War. In the course of that conflict, Par fought under Riek Machar with several rebel and pro-government groups, and eventually became a powerful militia commander in Western Upper Nile. In that region, he established his own fiefdom and gained some notoriety for his rivalry with another rebel leader, Peter Gadet. Even though he had followed Machar during the whole Second Sudanese Civil War until 2005, Par sided with President Salva Kiir Mayardit upon the outbreak of the South Sudanese Civil War in 2013. Leading pro-government counter-insurgency forces in Wau State since 2014, Par was eventually ambushed and killed by SPLM-IO rebels loyal to Machar in 2017.

A week after the attack, bodies still littered the streets. [12]


South Sudan's government said the death toll from the massacre exceeded 400. [1] In the main mosque alone, "more than 200 civilians were reportedly killed and over 400 wounded," the UN mission in the country said. [13] [14]

According to a source, many of the victims were Sudanese, in particular traders from Darfur as well as soldiers from the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), a Sudanese rebel group from Darfur accused of supporting the South Sudanese government. According to the source, JEM fighters removed their uniforms and hid in the mosque, before being shot. However, a Sudanese human rights group rejected this claim, saying those killed were unarmed civilians. [15]

Darfur region of Sudan

Darfur is a region in western Sudan. Dar is an Arabic word meaning home of - the region was named Dardaju while ruled by the Daju, who migrated from Meroë c. 350 AD, and it was then renamed Dartunjur when the Tunjur ruled the area. Darfur was an independent sultanate for several hundred years, incorporated into Sudan by Anglo-Egyptian forces in 1916. The region is divided into five federal states: Central Darfur, East Darfur, North Darfur, South Darfur and West Darfur. Because of the war in Darfur between Sudanese government forces and the indigenous population, the region has been in a state of humanitarian emergency since 2003.

Justice and Equality Movement Sudanese opposition group

The Justice and Equality Movement is a Sudanese opposition group founded by Khalil Ibrahim, the group has been led since January 2012 by his brother Gibril Ibrahim, as Khalil was killed in December 2011. JEM's political agenda includes issues such as: radical and comprehensive constitutional reform to grant Sudan's regions a greater share of power in ruling the country, the replacement of social injustice and political tyranny with justice and equality, and basic services for every Sudanese.

Many other victims were civilians as well as SPLA soldiers belonging to the Dinka people, an ethnic group which had traditionally supported Kiir's government. [2]


Rebel leader, Riek Machar, said his forces were not behind the killings [3] and rebel spokesman Lul Ruai Koang said, "the government forces and their allies committed these heinous crimes while retreating." [16]

The massacre at Bentiu greatly increased the animosity of Dinkas against ethnic Nuer in Bahr el Ghazal which had previously been largely peaceful and unaffected by the civil war. Families of Dinka soldiers killed at Bentiu attacked a Nuer SPLA soldier at Mapel, Western Bahr el Ghazal, in April 2014, resulting in inter-tribal clashes and the massacre of up to 200 Nuer soldiers by Dinka soldiers. This violence led to the mass desertion of Nuer SPLA members in Bahr el Ghazal who then fled north into Sudan in course of a long march. [2]

See also

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The South Sudan Liberation Movement (SSLM) is an armed group that operates in the Upper Nile Region of South Sudan. The group's creation was announced in November 1999 by people of the Nuer ethnicity who were in both the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) and the government-allied South Sudan Defence Forces (SSDF) gathered in Waat. The SSLM was declared to be unaligned in the Second Sudanese Civil War, then entering its sixteenth year. The name "South Sudan Liberation Movement" was decided upon the next year, borrowing from the earlier Southern Sudan Liberation Movement, which existed in the 1980s.

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The SPLA-Nasir was a splinter faction of the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), a rebel group that fought in the Second Sudanese Civil War. Originally created as an attempt by the Nuer tribe to replace SPLA leader John Garang in August 1991, it gradually became coopted by the government. The break away of Riek Machar from SPLM/A resulted in Nuer ethnic group massacring Garang's ethnic Dinka from Bor in the Bor massacre in 1991. This split resulted in the 1994 National Convention of New Sudan in Chukudum.

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Nuer White Army

The Nuer White Army, sometimes decapitalised as the "white army", is a semi-official name for a militant organisation formed by the Nuer people of central and eastern Greater Upper Nile in modern-day South Sudan as early as 1991. According to the Small Arms Survey, it arose from the 1991 schism within the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) for the dual purpose of defending Nuer cattle herds from neighbouring groups and fighting in the Second Sudanese Civil War between the SPLM/A and the Sudanese government.

The Bor massacre was a massacre of an estimated 2,000 civilians in Bor on November 15, 1991 during the Second Sudanese Civil War. The massacre was carried out mostly by Nuer fighters from SPLA-Nasir, led by Riek Machar, and the militant group known as the Nuer White Army. Amnesty International said at least 2,000 Dinka were killed, though the real number may have been higher. In the years which followed, an estimated 25,000 more died from famine as their cattle were either stolen or shot and the fighting had displaced them from the land they had once cultivated. At the time, Riek Machar described the incident as "propaganda" and "myth". In 2012, he publicly apologized for his part in the massacre.

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  1. 1 2 SOUTH SUDAN SAYS MASSACRE TOLL UP TO 400, america.aljazeera.com.
  2. 1 2 3 Small Arms Survey (2014).
  3. 1 2 S Sudan rebel leader rejects massacre claims, aljazeera.com.
  4. South Sudan, economist.com.
  5. An ‘abomination’: Slaughter in the mosques and churches of Bentiu, South Sudan, washingtonpost.com.
  6. An ‘abomination’: Slaughter in the mosques and churches of Bentiu, South Sudan, washingtonpost.com.
  7. S.Sudan rebels slaughter 'hundreds' in ethnic massacres: UN Archived April 21, 2014, at the Wayback Machine ., news.yahoo.com.
  8. An ‘abomination’: Slaughter in the mosques and churches of Bentiu, South Sudan, washingtonpost.com.
  9. South Sudan: Bentiu atrocity will not be the last unless pleas for help are heard, theguardian.com.
  10. S.Sudan rebels slaughter 'hundreds' in ethnic massacres: UN Archived April 21, 2014, at the Wayback Machine ., news.yahoo.com.
  11. "BREAKING NEWS: Another Senior Government General Feared Dead in an Ambush near Wau, Western Bhar el Ghazal". Nyamile. 9 April 2017. Retrieved 20 April 2017.
  12. South Sudan: Bentiu atrocity will not be the last unless pleas for help are heard, theguardian.com.
  13. S.Sudan rebels slaughter 'hundreds' in ethnic massacres: UN Archived April 21, 2014, at the Wayback Machine ., news.yahoo.com.
  14. An ‘abomination’: Slaughter in the mosques and churches of Bentiu, South Sudan, washingtonpost.com.
  15. South Sudan: Bentiu atrocity will not be the last unless pleas for help are heard, theguardian.com.
  16. South Sudan sacks army chief over Bentiu, sbs.com.au.